By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The Metis Nation of Alberta has expressed relief after two men who shot and killed Metis hunters Maurice Cardinal and Jacob Sansom in March 2020 were found guilty by an Edmonton jury.
Anthony Bilodeau was found guilty of second-degree murder for the death of 57-year-old Cardinal and manslaughter for the death of 39-year-old Sansom.
Bilodeau’s father Roger was also found guilty of manslaughter for both deaths.
Both Bilodeaus were charged with two counts each of second-degree murder, to which they had pled not guilty. Jurors have the option of convicting for manslaughter if they find a defendant not guilty of murder.
Second-degree murder carries a sentence of life imprisonment while manslaughter with a firearm has a minimum sentence of four years.
“This case was a stark illustration of the discrimination and contempt experienced by many of our Citizens especially in that area of the province,” reads a statement from the Metis Nation of Alberta (MNA).
The killings occurred on a rural road about 260 kilometres northwest of Edmonton. Sansom was shot once in the chest and Cardinal three times in the shoulder.
“Both were callously left to die at the roadside by the killers,” the nation noted in its statement.
Outside the Court of Queen’s Bench, Andrea Sandmaier of the MNA spoke on behalf of the victims’ families, thanking the judge, jury, Crown prosecutor and supporters of the family for working “to bring justice for these senseless murders of Maurice and Jake.”
“You can’t even imagine the strength that this family has and what they’ve endured — the ugly, ugly ugliness of the keyboard warriors out there,” she told reporters.
“These gentlemen, Maurice and Jake, were so important to our Métis community … It’s a huge loss to this family, it’s a huge loss to the Metis Nation of Alberta.”
Jacob Sansom’s widow Sarah, who also spoke outside the courthouse, said no sentence will make up for the needless death of her husband.
“How do you put a time or sentence on two lives? And lives that were as significant as their lives were,” she said.
Sarah Sansom also criticized how the media uncritically reported the defence team’s arguments that focused on whether she and her husband had been drinking.
“Are we back in the 1800s? Is this cowboys against Indians?” she said. “The things that they were saying and the lies, for us, it was frustrating because we know them so well and we’re like, ‘they would never say things like that.”‘
The 11-person jury’s verdict came on May 31 — the day after closing arguments from the defence and Crown.
The Crown argued Sansom and Cardinal had done nothing wrong and that the Bilodeaus had taken the law into their own hands.
Court heard that Roger and his teenage son Joseph chased Sansom and Cardinal down seven km of rural road, at one point reaching speeds of 152 km/h, after spotting the Metis hunters’ truck in their driveway and assuming they were thieves.
During the chase, Roger called Anthony and told him to bring a gun. Once the two vehicles were stopped, Anthony Bilodeau arrived, shooting and killing Sansom and Cardinal before destroying the firearm and dumping it.
Anthony’s lawyer Brian Beresh said he believed there are “strong grounds” for an appeal of the verdict.
“This was not a race-motivated situation,” Beresh said. “We think that this was a misunderstanding in rural Alberta, it wasn’t about vigilantism at all.”